Top 10 novels about Turkey | imagination

I am often asked what is so special about Turkish literature. Really Orhan PamukPerceptions of a society stuck between modernity and traditionalism? or Elif ShafakNovels highlight the difficulty of being a woman in Turkey? Does our literature have to be political in order to be considered “Turkish”?

If it is, as Abraham Verghese says in his wonderful book “Cutting for Stone,” “Geography is Destiny,” then I think it is. In my last novels, at the breakfast tableAnd the A family gathering to celebrate Mother’s 100th birthday, soon reveals the fraught history of the family – and Turkey. The book examines the complexities of family life along with the tyranny, violence, and atrocities that hide our history and the social amnesia that now surrounds us. In this way, I see my writing as Turkish – these are the issues we breathe every day; They are buried in the dirt under our feet. However, there is also a balance: the greatest of Turkish literature discusses serious issues, but will also enlighten the heart and put a smile on your face.

With the choices below, I wanted to highlight books about turkey It speaks not only of its historical and social context, but also reflects the distinctive methods and creativity of its authors in dealing with individual, philosophical and political questions.

1. In the Shadow of Yali by Swat Darwish
Originally published 1945, This is Madame Bovary in Turkish literature. Darwish (1905-1972), one of Turkey’s leading women writers, wrote of the loss and longing for Turkish women in cities and wealth. In this novel, Celili is torn between her respected husband and her passionate tango partner in Istanbul in the 1940s. Although the story is universal in many ways, Darwish masterfully captures the peculiarities of Turkish society and its struggle with modernity. This rare gem is finally available in English thanks to Maureen Freely’s wonderful translation.

2. A highly unreliable account of the history of Madhouse by Ayfer Tunç
Well, the title says it all! The novel, one of the postmodern Arabian Nights, is set on Valentine’s Day in a mental institution on the Black Sea. One story intertwines with another so brilliantly that you barely notice the transition, but by the time the book ends, you realize you’ve traveled back in time, back and forth across a century, and encountered hundreds of characters all interconnected. Inventive and playful, Faiza Howell’s translation is unbeatable, managing to recreate the unique rhythm of this powerful novel.

A portrait of Orhan Pamuk in the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.
A portrait of Orhan Pamuk in the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

3. The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Every time I read this book I find something new in it. Set in 1970s Istanbul, the film follows 30-year-old Kemal, the son of a cultured urban family, who falls in love with a distant relative – the beautiful 18-year-old Fosun – who comes from a family of modest means. This ill-fated love story, translated by Maureen Freely, is also about Kamal’s awakening to his true nature. Pamuk winks at Proust and Walter Benjamin, while Kemal collects things that remind him of his lost lover. Pamuk also built a real museum of innocence: If you’re visiting Istanbul, you can go to Füsun’s house and see her shoes and dresses, movie tickets, and hundreds of cigarette butts that Kemal El-Hezin has collected.

4. Elif Shafak’s Flea Palace
My favorite Twilight book. Funny and tragic at once, it’s a modern Istanbul story set in 10 apartments located inside the dilapidated once glorious Bonbon Palace. A story within a story told from different perspectives of the building’s occupants, The Flea Palace paints a fascinating picture of Turkey on the brink of the 21st century, written with intelligence and love.

5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Eugenides’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is considered the tale of Detroit, although it began in the Ottoman Empire. Two brothers, two Ottoman citizens of Greek descent, flee from war and end up in New York with a secret in their hearts and in their DNA, and this opening is crucial to the plot as it happens. The collapse of this global empire and its evolution into the nation-state of Turkey forms the backbone of Eugenides’ story, and the pain and grief of the forever lost land is transmitted to younger generations in the story of family, inheritance, and the immigrant experience.

6. A Mind in Peace by Ahmed Hamdi Tanpinar
First published in 1949, A Mind in Peace is seen as the Turkish Ulysses and contains the most beautiful image of Istanbul ever depicted in literature, as well as offering profound insights into human nature. As we walk with our 30-year-old protagonist along the shores of the Bosphorus in Erdag Goknar’s translation, we realize the human condition that resides within all of us, the core of our being: love, compassion, and our eternal need to belong.

7. The last train to Istanbul by Aisha Kulin
Colin is Turkey’s most popular novelist. She is very prolific and researches her subjects well. Translated by John W Baker, during World War II, this book reveals a very little known part of Turkish history: the mission to save Turkish Jews in Paris from Nazi occupation. Like a train, the novel begins slowly, accelerating as it approaches the end. When you get to the final chapters and still don’t know if the heroes will cross the border or not, you get short of breath.

Still image from the 1987 movie version of The Motherland Hotel.
Unstable… Still image from the 1987 movie version of The Motherland Hotel

8. Motherland by Yusuf Etilgan Hotel
In this existential nightmare, ably translated by Fred Stark, protagonist Zebercet awaits the arrival of his beloved at a small hotel that was, once, a wealthy mansion. It’s a disturbing book that depicts a mind possessed by obsession, and a story about the ambiguity of a post-Ottoman society in a small town in Turkey.

9. Useless Man: Selected Stories from Sait Faik Abasiyanik
Abasianik’s stories are reminiscent of Chekhov’s stories—short and witty critical of society and politics—and The Useless Man is the most comprehensive collection of his works in English, translated by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe. The stories depict the daily lives of ordinary people in Istanbul and the complexities that occurred during the country’s transition from the Ottoman Empire to the modern Turkish Republic.

10. Waiting for Fear by Oğuz Atay
Here Atay asks the question “Who are we?” He attempts to answer them in each individual short story, all told in his distinctive ironic style. The book has now been translated into English for the first time by Folia Becker and will be released in November. It’s a great way to glimpse the “soul of Turkey,” something Atay himself was curious about in his life.

At the Breakfast Table by Defne Suman Posted by Head of Zeus (£20). To help the guardian and the observer, Order your copy from guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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